A California federal court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) alleging Whole Foods Market Inc. misrepresents its meat products as humanely slaughtered with its Global Animal Partnership (GAP) 5-Step® Rating System. PETA v. Whole Foods Mkt. Cal., Inc., No. 15-4301 (N.D. Cal., order entered April 26, 2016). Details about the complaint appear in Issue 579 of this Update, while information about a previous dismissal without prejudice appears in Issue 593.
The plaintiffs asserted that Whole Foods’ GAP rating system is a ”‛sham’ that is not actually enforced and the advertisements do not adequately disclose that ‘key animal treatment standards’ under the GAP rating ‘are no better or marginally better than is the common industry practice,’” according to the court. Whole Foods filed a motion to dismiss the case arguing that the plaintiffs failed to allege misrepresentations or an actionable omission under California law, and the court agreed. “Whole Foods correctly points out that statements such as ‘Great-Tasting Meat From Healthy Animals,’ and ‛Raised Right Tastes Right,’ are ‘not actionable statements of fact, because they are not quantifiable, objective statements.’” The court concluded the statements were “unspecific and unmeasurable, and therefore constitute puffery.”
The plaintiffs also argued that some of Whole Foods’ statements, such as “No Cages,” were affirmative misrepresentations because they “merely mimic normal industry practices, which is deceptive given that Whole Foods’s advertisements create the impression of ensuring superior animal treatment.” The court disagreed, noting the statement was not untruthful about Whole Foods’ practices. Accordingly, the court granted Whole Foods’ motion to dismiss with prejudice.